Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman's Life

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“[Quindlen] serves up generous portions of her wise, commonsensical, irresistibly quotable take on life. . . . What Nora Ephron does for body image and Anne Lamott for spiritual neuroses, Quindlen achieves on the home front.”—NPR
 
Includes an exclusive conversation between Meryl Streep and Anna Quindlen!

In this irresistible memoir, Anna Quindlen writes about a woman’s life, from childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, using the events of her life to illuminate ours. Considering—and celebrating—everything from marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, parenting, faith, loss, to all the stuff in our closets, and more, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen uses her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages. Quindlen talks about
 
Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”
 
Girlfriends: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. ”
 
Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come.”
 
Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”
 
Candid, funny, and moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.
 
“Classic Quindlen, at times witty, at times wise, and always of her time.”—The Miami Herald
 
“[A] pithy, get-real memoir.”—Booklist
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A bighearted book of wisdom, wit, and insight, celebrating the love and joy of being a grandmother, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and #1 New York Times bestselling author

“I am changing his diaper, he is kicking and complaining, his exhausted father has gone to the kitchen for a glass of water, his exhausted mother is prone on the couch. He weighs little more than a large sack of flour and yet he has laid waste to the living room: swaddles on the chair, a nursing pillow on the sofa, a car seat, a stroller. No one cares about order, he is our order, we revolve around him. And as I try to get in the creases of his thighs with a wipe, I look at his, let’s be honest, largely formless face and unfocused eyes and fall in love with him. Look at him and think, well, that’s taken care of, I will do anything for you as long as we both shall live, world without end, amen.”

Before blogs even existed, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and modern life, in her nationally syndicated column. Now she’s taking the next step and going full nana in the pages of this lively, beautiful, and moving book about being a grandmother. Quindlen offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. She writes, “Where I once led, I have to learn to follow.” Eventually a close friend provides words to live by: “Did they ask you?”

Candid, funny, frank, and illuminating, Quindlen’s singular voice has never been sharper or warmer. With the same insights she brought to motherhood in Living Out Loud and to growing older in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, this new nana uses her own experiences to illuminate those of many others.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Apr 24, 2012
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780679604006
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Biography & Autobiography / Women
Family & Relationships / Parenting / Motherhood
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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“What are you reading?”

That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.

This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.

Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 


This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide. 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life
 
Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.
 
Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

“There comes a moment in every novelist’s career when she . . . ventures into new territory, breaking free into a marriage of tone and style, of plot and characterization, that’s utterly her own. Anna Quindlen’s marvelous romantic comedy of manners is just such a book. . . . Taken as a whole, Quindlen’s writings represent a generous and moving interrogation of women’s experience across the lines of class and race. [Still Life with Bread Crumbs] proves all the more moving because of its light, sophisticated humor. Quindlen’s least overtly political novel, it packs perhaps the most serious punch. . . . Quindlen has delivered a novel that will have staying power all its own.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“[A] wise tale about second chances, starting over, and going after what is most important in life.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Quindlen’s astute observations . . . are the sorts of details every writer and reader lives for.”—Chicago Tribune

“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR

“Enchanting . . . [The protagonist’s] photographs are celebrated for turning the ‘minutiae of women’s lives into unforgettable images,’ and Quindlen does the same here with her enveloping, sure-handed storytelling.”—People

“Charming . . . a hot cup of tea of a story, smooth and comforting about the vulnerabilities of growing older . . . a pleasure.”—USA Today
 
“With spare, elegant prose, [Quindlen] crafts a poignant glimpse into the inner life of an aging woman who discovers that reality contains much more color than her own celebrated black-and-white images.”—Library Journal
 
“Quindlen has always excelled at capturing telling details in a story, and she does so again in this quiet, powerful novel, showing the charged emotions that teem beneath the surface of daily life.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Quindlen presents instantly recognizable characters who may be appealingly warm and nonthreatening, but that only serves to drive home her potent message that it’s never too late to embrace life’s second chances.”—Booklist
 
“Profound . . . engaging.”—Kirkus Reviews


From the Trade Paperback edition.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

They met over their dogs. Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp (author of Drinking: A Love Story) became best friends, talking about everything from their love of books and their shared history of a struggle with alcohol to their relationships with men. Walking the woods of New England and rowing on the Charles River, these two private, self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen. Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with cancer. With her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion, and courage in this gorgeous memoir about treasuring a best friend, and coming of age in midlife. Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a celebration of the profound transformations that come from intimate connection—and it affirms, once again, why Gail Caldwell is recognized as one of our bravest and most honest literary voices.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Gail Caldwell's New Life, No Instructions.

Praise for Let's Take the Long Way Home

“A near-perfect memoir: beautiful, humble, intimate and filled with piercing insights.  Meant to be savored and shared.”—Time

“Stunning . . . gorgeous . . . intense and moving . . . A book of such crystalline truth that it makes the heart ache.”—The Boston Globe
 
“[Let’s Take the Long Way Home] left me intensely moved. . . . Caldwell’s greatest achievement is to rise above [death and loss] to describe both the very best that women can be together and the precious things they can, if they wish, give back to one another: power, humor, love and self-respect.”—Julie Myerson, The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
 
“[A] beautiful book . . . The losing isn’t the exceptional part of this story; everyone loses something, sooner or later.  The wonder lies in finding it in the first place.”—Salon
 
“A tribute to the enduring power of friendship . . . You can shelve Let’s Take the Long Way Home . . . next to The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s searing memoir about losing her husband to heart failure.  But that’s assuming it makes it to your shelf: This is a book you’ll want to share with your own ‘necessary pillars of life,’ as Caldwell refers to her nearest and dearest. . . . A lovely gift to readers.”—Washington Post
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